When Dija Ayodele, entrepreneur, aesthetician and founder of the Black Skin Directory announced she would be tackling the topic ‘diversity in the beauty industry’ via Instagram, we set our diaries, pronto.
In 2018, Dija Ayodele launched her awarding winning resource, the Black Skin Directory, which gives guidance and expert advice on the best practices for thriving skin. We have benefitted from Dija’s knowledge a number of times, including when she have us her top skincare tips for glowing skin.
Hearing voices like Dija in the beauty space is refreshing, especially when progress around diversity in the industry continues to be hit and miss. While things appear to be moving in the right direction, particularly after the Fenty effect, change and real inclusion, as standard is still to come.
Read what Dija had to say about diversity in the beauty industry.
How she manages to remain an individual in the beauty industry
When I get into the room, I know I’ll probably be the only person there that’s Black. You subconsciously have this quick scan of the room, who else is here that looks like me or who can I sit next to. And I think to myself, Dija you’re the only one here that looks like you. So, you’re just going to have to own that, there is no assimilating anywhere. Therefore, I don’t try to assimilate, I say what I want to say and what I need to say to get my point across. That’s how I remain an individual, I champion the causes of my community within that space and allow for voices to be heard.
How we can push for more diversity in the beauty industry
I think we need to put each other forward more. If we don’t, we’re not going to get many people like us around the table. Whoever gets in the room, needs to pull other people in with them. If I can’t do something, I’ll say I know someone who can. If I can’t do it, I want someone I know and trust to make those connections around diversity. It’s important for us to be more present.
Why sometimes she just doesn’t want to talk about diversity
I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked into conferences and I’ve thought ‘where is everyone else that looks like me?’ Why aren’t there other speakers in this room that are Black? But it gets to the point where I’ll say to my PR, I don’t want to speak about this. I want to speak about something else, you get pigeon holed into one topic, diversity. But it’s like no, we can speak about other issues too; this isn’t our only issue.
On diversity in the make-up industry
I remember back in my blogging days; I’d go to make-up launches and I’d say there aren’t any shades for me. And they’d say oh no they’re coming; we’re just going to see how these do. Then we’ll see about shades for darker skin. It was like, oh thank you that’s a nice way to make me feel appreciated. If they knew the real spending power of Black women, they would come correct in the first place. I see a lot of brands doing that now, well the good ones! The ones that are doing it right, people like Pat McGrath, Uoma Beauty.
On what brands need to consider to include Black women in the conversation
When it comes to some of the concerns that Black women face, especially concerns around pigmentation issues; some brands just articulate their message that bit better than others. And when that happens it means that women of colour are a lot clearer in direction. I find if you don’t specifically say this is good for skin of colour, a lot of Black women switch off because you’ve not actually spoken to them. It’s that feeling of, was I included in this conversation or not?
On some of her favourite skincare brands
I have brands like Skinbetter Science that I absolutely love! They showed me all their clinical trials, they showed me all their imagery. They actually asked questions through the distributor, how does that look to you Dija? I really like them for that. I also really like brands that when you go to their presentations, they have imagery of all skin colours. Neostrata is another brand that does great work in telling you skincare works on darker skin, likewise, their sister brand Exuviance does the same thing.
On how to negotiate yourself in a space where you’re the only Black person
You want me to give all these insights, so you as a company can do better. You’re going to be able to market yourself in a better way that people of colour are going to be able to relate with, therefore you will sell more. How will I be empowered to continue to gain these insights? If you don’t want me to commoditize the information? You have to treat yourself as a commodity and you hold up the insights you have as a commodity. Then that valuable information you have can go on to make a difference to the company you work for.
On the future of diversity in the beauty industry
I think in light of COVID-19 a lot of people have spent a lot of time with themselves, so people are getting to know themselves a lot more. It’s about self-worth and knowing they are enough as they are. I think we’re definitely going to come out stronger within diversity. But I don’t know how companies will do more, generally when these things happen, businesses that have inclusion and diversity strategies tend to put those down. It costs to be diverse and inclusive. So, I’m really trying to work out if brands are going to spend that money still. Generally, I feel very positive about diversity and inclusion in the beauty industry. I would say the main thing is to find your tribe and love them hard.
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Image credits: Dija Ayodele